International relevance: ***
Classically trained Anders Helmerson once said that ”End of Illusion” was known to music business insiders as ”the most expensive Swedish record production after ABBA”. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing, but there's no denying it has plenty of production sheen, supposedly necessary to an album of this nature.
Helmerson was an early member of Kung Tung, but ”End of Illusion” bears no similarities with the satirical balls-to-the-wall rock of his previous band. It's a full scale symphonic work, and Helmerson is proud to demonstrate his Keith Emerson/Rick Wakeman pretentions. I could stop there – symph fans might drool over it (although that too is doubtful, judging by the Prog Archives reviews); me, I just get exhausted by the vulgar pyrotechnics. Especially since the compositions lack substance and dynamics, merely being thick layers of late 70's/early 80's keyboard textures. It's actually hard to believe the number of musicians involved here, as most of them are obscured by Helmerson's ego, ego, ego, ego, ego, keyboards, keyboards, keyboards, keyboards and keyboards. Did I mention ego and keyboards? As if that wasn't enough, he even got Egba trumpeter Ulf Adåker to play synthesizer!
It took Helmerson almost three years – from 1979 to 1981 – to finish off the album, largely due to financial shortcomings. He could have saved some money on studio time wasted on ten billions of extra keyboard overdubs. Ironically, ”End of Illusion” initially proved to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the self-released album failed to make much of an impact, prompting Helmerson to leave for Canada, then Brazil, and a more successful career, leaving behind one of the worst examples of self-indulgent and preposterous symphonic rock ever.